Finding Understanding

“Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold…
If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny…

But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.”
Psalm 73:1-2; 15-17; 28 (NIV)

The Psalmist begins with his conclusion. Then he speaks of his journey down into a dark place and the way out. He sensed that he could not talk about his confusion to any of God’s people lest he distress them. Next, he tells us where he got answers. Finally, he sums up the matter in the closing verses.

It is a most lonely place for anyone to be where you find yourself confused by God’s “mysterious ways”. We have been given the ability to think, to observe cause and effect, to see how a particular action will play out. Thus, when we look at the world around us rewarding evil people and seemingly punishing holy people, we find it confusing. As Christians we are children of a sovereign, holy, loving God. So how could He allow evil to go on being rewarded while the righteous suffer. It does not make sense to us until we find understanding somewhere. But where do we find understanding?

One thing the Psalmist did while in such silent suffering was to go to the house of God. This is a most important thing to do. Since the pandemic began the Lord’s people have realized as never before the blessing of being with the Lord’s people on Sunday, the day of our Lord’s resurrection. There the Word of God is read, expounded, the ordinances enacted, prayers are offered, hymns of praise sung, tithes and offerings collected, and mingling with the saints. In so many ways we are blessed when we assemble. Yet regardless of how large or small the group Jesus said,

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them…”
Matthew 18:20 (KJV)

How thankful we must be for technology that allows churches to livestream their services. Never give up turning on your computer Sunday morning and tuning in to your church’s service. With 56 years of preaching behind me I cannot count the many, many times people have spoken to me after a service telling me the sermon I just delivered was “just for me.”

So, this Sunday get ready for the Lord to speak to you and give you understanding regarding His way in your life. Ask Him to give you wisdom into His providence, a promise suitable to your need and a sense of His presence with you.

Your Father in heaven is waiting for you to call out to Him. Come and come now.

Preparation For Worship

“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart…”
Psalm 24:3-4 (NIV)

“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.”
Psalm 29:2 (NIV)

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar
and there remember that your brother or sister
has something against you,
leave your gift there in front of the altar.
First go and be reconciled to them;
then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

I recall many years ago lying on the operating table before surgery. I was still wide awake. Out of a window in one wall I saw my surgeon scrubbing his hands in a meticulous manner. I was encouraged at how carefully he proceeded. I wanted him to be unable to introduce any germ into my body as he conducted the operation. In some areas of life, we need to be very careful that we do not become infected.

As we plan to come to the Lord’s house to worship, there needs to be preparation on our part before we enter. Or, as we go online during the pandemic, we need to prepare to worship. Today’s verses call on us to consider our time between gatherings and consider if we have unconfessed sin that we need to clear up with the Lord prior to coming into His holy presence. Many times, when an adjective is used to describe the character of the Lord, the term “holy” is employed. In fact, “holy” outnumbers all other adjectives combined.

Isaiah’s favourite term for the Lord is the “Holy One of Israel”. So, as we reflect on how the Lord wishes to be known by people, holy is the most important way and modifies all His other attributes. For example, His love is a holy love. He hates evil and loves righteousness.

Do you consider this matter of preparation before presenting yourself to the Lord for worship? Jesus went so far as to tell people to interrupt their worship if they suddenly remember they have offended someone but did not reconcile. They are to get up and walk out of the service and seek out the offended person to renew fellowship with them. Only then should they come before the Lord to worship.

Consider yourself carefully every day before you read the Scriptures and pray. Follow the Psalmist’s prayer (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV) and make it your own today.

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Worship As Honour

Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord,
Genesis 24:26 (NIV)

“He [Jesus] withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them,
knelt down and prayed,”
Luke 22:41 (NIV)

We live in tumultuous times. The pandemic has devastated the world and brought nations to their knees. Scientists have worked diligently to discover and test a vaccine for use in the battle against this invisible and lethal enemy. Several different vaccines have been approved by various countries and the medicine is now being given to the public. Also, the world has been shocked at the riot in Washington, D.C. January 6, 2021 as Donald Trump’s followers stormed the Capitol building. We indeed, live in remarkable times.

People around the world are longing for security that the world seems unable to give. Deep in the human heart is a great need for Someone to be in control of our chaotic world. Hence worship of the Lord is a natural activity for many people, and it satisfies a profound concern.

Looking at today’s verses we see one aspect of biblical worship. The one offering worship bows before the One being worshipped. Such a physical act denotes appropriate humility and subjection by the worshipper. This explains why some people get down on their knees to pray. For many centuries, churches have had kneeling benches across the back of each row of pews. At appropriate times during the service worshippers fold the benches down and knee on them instead of the floor. This is a wonderful way to show honour to our great God and Saviour as we worship.

So, the physical act of bowing or kneeling has been in use for thousands of years when people worship, or at least during certain times during worship. It is wonderful that we even have record of the Lord Jesus kneeling when He prayed (Luke 22:41).

We can kneel at home or in church when we pray, we can bow our heads when we pray, and these physical actions accompanied by true humility of heart are acceptable to our Father in heaven. These actions are aspects of worship should not be lightly ignored but rather engaged in thoughtfully and with thanksgiving that we can know and worship the one true and living God.

I encourage you to follow Jesus’ example and bow before your Father in heaven as you pray to Him today. Come to Him and come now.

Worship The Lord

“Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.”
Psalm 96:8 (NIV)

“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.”
Psalm 24:3-5 (NIV)

“The Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him.”
Habakkuk 2:20 (NIV)

As a young child sitting in church, I was more observant than my overactive body would have suggested. I enjoyed looking around and seeing so many adults quietly seated with their heads bowed before the service began. I could not recall any other time in the week being around a large group of adults, who were so quiet. I was with crowds of adults at sporting events, family gatherings and so on but they were noisy in such contexts. This was very different.

It took years for me to learn the reason for such silence. Those godly people were preparing their hearts for worship. I recall A.W. Tozer, a great preacher of the twentieth century in the U.S.A., commenting on a practice he first witnessed in Canadian churches. He saw that, after the closing prayer, the congregation would sit quietly for several minutes with their heads bowed. He was impressed at how the worshippers were not in a hurry to catch up with other worshippers. Instead, they bowed their heads to pray privately and conclude their time of worship.

According to Scripture worship is a sacred event where people come to present themselves to the Lord and hear His message to them. It is a time for listening and ascribing worth to the Lord through prayer, singing of the Lord’s glory, reading Scripture, giving our tithes and offerings, observing the ordinances, and hearing the Word of God preached.

Our verses for today speak of a special attitude we need to have as we assemble for worship. God is great, and He is greatly to be praised. We must approach God with humility of heart. We need to always understand that God is awesome, all powerful, holy and wholly different from us.

Read the following poem and marvel at how the author mingles a holy fear of God and a pure delight in our heavenly Father.

My God, how wonderful Thou art,
Thy majesty, how bright;
How beautiful Thy mercy seat
In depths of burning light!

How dread are Thy eternal years,
O everlasting Lord,
By prostrate spirits day and night
Incessantly adored!

How wonderful, how beautiful,
The sight of Thee must be;
Thy endless wisdom, boundless power,
And glorious purity!

O how I fear Thee, living God,
With deep and tender fear;
And worship Thee with trembling hope,
And penitential tears!

Yet, I may love Thee, too, O Lord,
Almighty as Thou art;
For Thou hast stooped to ask of me
The love of my poor heart!

No earthly father loves like Thee,
No mother, e’er so mild,
Bears and forbears as Thou hast done,
With me, Thy sinful child.

Only to sit and think of God,
Oh, what a joy it is!
To think the thought, to breathe the Name,
Earth has no higher bliss.

Father of Jesus, love’s Reward!
What rapture it will be
Prostrate before Thy throne to lie,
And gaze, and gaze on Thee!

-Fredrick Faber

Passion In Prayer

“Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act!
For your sake, my God, do not delay,
because your city and your people bear your Name.”
Daniel 9:19 (NIV)

There is a story about a dear deacon in one church who faithfully attended the Wednesday night prayer meetings. He always had the same prayer each week that included the following sentence, “Lord clear away the cobwebs from our lives.” Another faithful deacon found his patience wearing thin at this repetition. So, one night as the first deacon once more said the same request, the impatient deacon jumped to his feet and shouted, “Lord don’t do it, kill the spider instead!”

Well, there was passion no doubt in the frustrated deacon’s voice. Yet we are sure of the sincerity of both men.

As Daniel moves through his prayer, we note the sentences near the end of the prayer become brief and terse. Daniel is certainly sincere and thoughtful as his prayer progresses, but his emotions become more powerful and add to his passion in prayer.

You can sincerely become passionate as you pray by immersing yourself in the pattern Daniel uses as he lifts his heart and voice to the Lord. By using applicable characteristics of the Lord, by humbling yourself, by using appropriate Scriptures, by confessing sin, by recognizing who you are in the eyes of the Lord, you can become very involved passionately in praying to your Father in heaven.

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare,
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
The joys I feel, the bliss I share,
Of those whose anxious spirits burn
With strong desires for thy return!
With such I hasten to the place
Where God my Savior shows His face,
And gladly take my station there,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To Him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since He bids me seek His face,
Believe His Word and trust His grace,
I’ll cast on Him my every care,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
May I thy consolation share,
Till, from Mount Pisgah’s lofty height,
I view my home and take my flight.
This robe of flesh I’ll drop, and rise
To seize the everlasting prize,
And shout, while passing through the air,
“Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!”

– William W. Walford